03/10/2015 4:20PM

Goldfeder: Winning goals, losing threshold


Things happen. Life gets in the way of gambling. Gambling gets in the way of work. Work gets in the way of life. It’s a vicious cycle. Sometimes the car breaks down, the sink cracks, the washing machine needs a part, the front window breaks, or you get assigned a project that is going to occupy much of your time and you just can't focus on the game.

You need cash, and one place where you have something stored away is your horse-racing account. An account that normally carries a balance between $500 and $5,000 depending upon the time of year now has a few hundred dollars in it. Your bankroll is not dwindling because you are in a slump – life intervened.

You can't always control events, but you can adjust. No matter what size your bankroll is, if you play within yourself and define your objectives, you can keep your head in the game. Keeping your head in the game means betting. It's the only way to get and stay sharp. Things happen, but if you are committed, you can overcome any obstacles.

When you are living off a bankroll that you know you won't be able to replenish right away, each move has to be more calculated from both a handicapping and wagering point of view. That is why you need to define your goals and know what threshold you can stand before the pressure gets to you, resulting in bad decisions.

With a smaller bankroll than you might normally use, you need to be disciplined and must have a plan. The first part of your plan should be your goal for the day. The second part is to know the threshold of what your bankroll can fall to before you become uncomfortable, at which point you need to decide whether to play on, re-evaluate your objectives, or pack it in for the day.

This is a situation I've been in before and will probably be in again. So, last Sunday, I played with a $200 bankroll. My goal was to make $100, to churn $200, and not to wager any more than 10 percent of my bankroll on any race. If you can wager the amount of your original bankroll and still have that amount at the end of the day, you have beaten the takeout, which in itself is an accomplishment.

It always helps when you win early. It prevents a sense of panic from setting in. That is why you should also set a threshold for losses on a day.  Don’t be afraid to pack it in if you are not feeling it or don’t have some key horses you are pointing to later. 

I looked at Aqueduct and Gulfstream, where there were a few horses of interest.

Winning goal: $100
Losing threshold: $100 (50 percent of bankroll)
Churn goal: $200

Aqueduct Race 2
Bankroll: $200
(4) Saluda (9-5 ML): Since Abigail Adsit claimed her for Drawing Away Stables, she had been running against much better competition. The drop to $32K claiming made sense, and with (6) Bernstein Flambe (2-1 ML) and (5) Omagoddonna (6-1 ML) both taking money, the odds were wavering between 5-2 and 3-1, which was acceptable to me. With a starting bankroll of $200, I decided to wager $20 to win. 

When they broke from the gate, Saluda was 5-2. She sat just off the pace tracking the leaders through the top of the stretch. After she changed leads in upper stretch, she took over and drew away late by two lengths. I got the trip I wanted and was happy with the price. More importantly, she paid $7.40 to win, netting a profit of $54.

Aqueduct Race 6
Bankroll: $254
(9) Pretension (4-1 ML): Coming off a game win in a statebred $20K claimer, this veteran gelding was reclaimed by Linda Rice and entered in a second-level optional claimer. She claimed him from Gary Contessa, who also had reclaimed Pretension, so he was a popular horse whose connections felt was sound and reliable. At this point in the day, it appeared that speed was playing well over the muddy surface. Pretension figured to be forwardly placed, so that added to his appeal along with the fact that he liked the track, the distance, and had run well over the slop in the past. I thought about doing a win bet as well as a few exactas using (4) Moneyinyour Pocket (3-1 ML), (2) Wildniteattheopera (5-1 ML), and (10) This Hard Land (7-2 ML). However, given my bankroll, my goals, and the fact that I was getting 4-1, I decided to go with just the win bet. I wagered $25 to win on Pretension.

Pretension broke sharply and sat right off the pacesetter, (6) Seal Team Four (10-1 final odds), challenging him at the top of the stretch and just getting up by a nose after a prolonged duel to the wire. Seal Team Four ran a good race, but he was aided by a live rail, which I entered into my notes in DRF Formulator. The notes will provide me with some perspective on this race going forward when he runs back. The win paid $10.80 for an overall profit of $110, bringing my bankroll to $364.

It appeared that I reached my winnings goal quickly, as this put me ahead by $164. However, I also had a goal of churning $200, so I was not there yet. The objective was to win $100 and wager $200.

Aqueduct Race 8
(3) Finn’s Quest (4-1 ML): I ignored the obvious in this race and paid attention to who I thought was the fastest horse going off at what seemed a fair price. Finn’s Quest was hanging around in the 7-2 to 4-1 range, and it looked like he was going to provide value. However, he was going to have to get a pace, and with the track playing as it was, I thought (1) Street Lord (4-1 final odds) could possibly get loose on the rail. If Finn’s Quest reverted to the form he showed on the inner track last year, he would be very dangerous. I wagered $35 to win on Finn’s Quest, who was third off a layoff and was perhaps moving in the right direction for trainer Thomas Morley. I bet him when he was 7-2, but as they broke, the odds changed to 5-2.

Finn’s Quest broke well and tracked Street Lord around the first turn but then settled three back on the rail as they moved up the backstretch. He got within a length on the turn, but then Street Lord cut the corner and drew away. Finn’s Quest looked done in midstretch but came again up the live rail to get up for second with an okay gallop-out.

Odds of 3-1 were really my limit for Finn’s Quest in this race, but things happen, and he went off at 5-2. With the loss, my bankroll dropped to $329. The churn stood at $80.

Gulfstream Park Race 10
Bankroll: $329
(13) My Bella Beauty (12-1 ML): When I looked at the board and saw her sitting there at 25-1, it got my attention. I was familiar with her from when she ran on the New York circuit last year. The distance was a concern, but she had just won going 7 1/2 furlongs, and if she got a good trip, perhaps she could be competitive again. I put $15 on her to win and place as she went off at odds of 30-1.

My Bella Beauty broke well from the outside post and was able to track the pace four wide on the first turn – not ideal, but not terrible. She held her position three back and three wide through the far turn but had no run in the stretch. I got the trip I expected, but she wasn’t good enough. The bankroll dropped to $299. 

This put me below my winnings goal, but I still had two races that I was interested in and was pretty much committed to go the distance because I felt good about my handicapping opinion.

Aqueduct Race 9
Bankroll: $299
(7) Soul Opposition (8-1 ML): Had something of a troubled trip last out but showed good run late with a strong gallop-out. Looked like she was “on the improve” in her second start off a layoff, and I expected a fair price. 

(1) Utopian Wife (12-1 ML): First off a layoff for Gustavo Rodriguez, who seemed to really be heating up over the last few days. Speed from the rail and well bet in her last four races around this class level, she seemed a very usable horse in this spot.

(2) Kleptocrat (2-1 ML): Third off a layoff and with the highest last-race Beyer Speed Figure of any horse in the field, she figured to be the favorite and was well spotted.

(6) Desert Spirit (5-1 ML): Won her first start last out in the mud, and although a little green, she didn’t have to improve that much to contend in this low-level claimer.

(8) Lady Rhubarb (15-1 ML): First-time 4-year-old was dropping in class for hot trainer Gary Gullo. Had shown good early speed on dirt in the past, and if she got to the front, could be dangerous.

Soul Opposition was my horse, and she hovered between 6-1 and 7-1 throughout the wagering. When the gates broke, she was 8-1. With my bankroll at $299, I was only going to invest 10 percent, or $30. Given that she came off the pace and was as likely to finish second as first, I bet $10 to win and played a $3 exacta 7/1-2-6-8 ($12) and a $2 exacta 1-2-6-8/7 ($8).

Soul Opposition rated toward the rear early and then began her run on the turn, advancing to within six lengths of the lead at the top of the stretch. She changed leads in midstretch and had a good sustained run between horses late but was just outfinished for third. Desert Spirit (7-2 final odds) set the pace and was run down late by Utopian Wife (15-1 final odds), with Kleptocrat (8-5 final odds) closing strongly to get up for second.

I had the right horses, but because of the bankroll restrictions, I did not consider playing triples or supers. Soul Opposition ran okay – I had no problem with the play. The bankroll dropped to $269.

Gulfstream Park Race 11
Bankroll: $269
This was the last race I planned on playing on the day, and it was now uncertain whether I would reach my goals. With my bankroll at $269, I was committed to play smart and stay within the confines of not wagering more than 10 percent. This meant the churn goal was not going to be met, but at worst, I would end up ahead $44 from an investment of $165 for an ROI of 27 cents on the dollar.

(6) Lori’s Store (4-1 ML): My old friend from a Feb. 7 race at Gulfstream, where she just missed at the same level at odds of 18-1, preventing me from having a pretty good day. Scratched from the Hillsborough Stakes at Tampa on March 7, she instead was entered in this race, which was a much easier spot. Given the way her last two races ended, the extra furlong would only appear to improve her chances with that explosive late kick she exhibited both times. I was back aboard as long as she was 5-2 or better.

(1) Smartfly (10-1 ML): First off the layoff for trainer Malcolm Pierce, who does well in these instances. She figured to get a good trip with her inside speed from the rail. She had split her 15 starts between synthetic and turf, and it was clear that she was much better on turf than synthetic. The races in which she competed appeared better than they looked on paper, and she offered the most value in exotics as far as I was concerned.

These were the only two horses I liked, so I bet $15 to win on Lori’s Store and a $5 exacta box on Lori’s Store and Smartfly.

Smartfly settled in midpack on the rail and was keen and under a good hold as they raced down the backstretch. She gained some ground with a rail-skimming ride and was three back at the top of the stretch. Lori’s Store was rated toward the rear under a good hold. When asked, Smartfly angled out two wide and finished full of run, only to be outkicked by the fast-closing Lori’s Store, who got cranked up in the stretch and had just enough ground to get up for the win.

Lori’s Store paid $7.60 to win for a profit of $42, and the exacta paid $49.40 for a profit of $113.50.

My bankroll more than doubled as I ended the day with $424.50 for a profit of $224.50 – a positive ROI of $1.36 for every dollar wagered.

The key of the day was Pretension getting his nose down and winning. With a bankroll of $364 instead of $234, I had more flexibility. Had Pretension lost and I maintained the same plan, I still would have profited.

With a bankroll of $234, I would have wagered $23 to win on Finn’s Quest (Bankroll: $211). I would have wagered $10 to win and place on My Bella Beauty (Bankroll: $191); $7 to win on Soul Opposition with a $2 exacta 7/1-2-6-8 ($8) and $1 exacta 1-2-6-8/7 ($4) (Bankroll: $172); and $10 to win on Lori’s Store with a $3 exacta box 1-6 ($6) (Bankroll: $284.10).

The plan still would have worked.

On this day, I got off to a good start and never had to worry about readjusting my strategy because the bankroll did not fall to the losing threshold level. I was helped by maintaining my discipline and sticking with the plan. Had my bankroll dipped to below $100, I may have had to adjust my plan to wager only 5 percent instead of 10 percent on each race. I chose $200 as the level because it gave me some flexibility to play how I wanted but not so much that I was prepared to go beyond an exacta or daily double with an exotic play. This is not to say that I wouldn't play a triple or super or even a multi-race exotic, but the investment would have to be within the confines of my plan. As it turned out, I did not reach all of my goals, so it was not a completely satisfying day. I did not have a strong enough opinion on any other races on the day, so I had to pack it in and turn the page to prepare for the next racing day.

Whether you play with $200, $500, $1,000, or $10,000, having a plan that suits your bankroll should help your chances of having a profitable day.

No matter what the circumstances that dictate bankroll size, play within yourself, keep your head in the game, and of course review your performance. Things happen . . .